World number one Mark Selby reached the final of the World Championship at the Crucible following a titanic tussle with Ding Junhui, eventually prevailing 17-15.
Selby and Ding’s epic, century-filled battle on Friday evening gave way to a more tactical affair but it was no less dramatic for it, with Ding fighting back from 16-13 to push Selby nearly all the way, giving himself the chance of revenge against the player who beat him in last year’s final.
But Selby, a two-time winner, capitalised on a crucial mistake from Ding on a blue in the final frame and he edged his way to victory, setting up a likely meeting with four-time world champion John Higgins, who needs only one frame to beat Barry Hawkins in Saturday’s evening session.
Selby shows passion as he finally beats Ding to reach final
Selby had been unable to shake a determined Ding off in Friday’s engrossing evening session, with the Chinese star pulling level on 12 frames apiece with two centuries to round off a superb evening’s work, full of remarkable snooker.
But it was world number one Selby who reasserted control on Saturday afternoon, compiling breaks of 74 and then a lovely 96 to take the first two frames of the session.
Selby pays tribute to Ding after semi-final marathon
Ding, by contrast, only had three points on the board across the two frames but after a safety battle of wills at the start of frame 27 he finally got some table time, a break of 53 helping him towards his first frame of the day, and back to within one of Selby.
The Jester from Leicester had the first go at the last frame before the interval, building up to 41, but missed a pink which allowed Ding back in. He enjoyed a break of 34 before seeing an easy red rattle the jaws of the pocket. Ding needed snookers by the time they reached the colours but couldn't trap Selby, who moved two frames ahead again.
Always compelling, even if Saturday’s fare didn’t boast Friday’s feast of centuries, the tussle looked to be nearing its epic end when a 40-minute frame went the way of Selby after the interval, and he opened up a three-frame lead for the first time since leading 10-7.
But, yet again, Ding had other ideas. The hero of China was going toe-to-toe with Selby in the tactical battles and won the next two frames to rattle the reigning champ, who beat him in last year’s final – a 73 in frame 31 was his highest of the session.
Ding had a chance in the final frame but a costly missed blue allowed Selby back in again, and he made no mistake this time.